Can The Detroit Pistons’ Recent Surge Be Trusted?

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Can The Detroit Pistons’ Recent Surge Be Trusted?

Post by admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 7:36 am

The Detroit Pistons almost immediately flushed their season down the drain to start the 2019-20 campaign. They started out 4-9 with a fairly easy schedule, thanks largely to Blake Griffin missing the first 10 games of the season and other injuries up and down the roster over that stretch.

Fortunately, upon his return, there has been something of a recovery. The Pistons have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games and Griffin has played in nine of them. While a mere .500 record doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence, they do have an offensive rating of 112.3, a defensive rating of 106.6, and a corresponding net rating of +5.7.

Believe it or not, this gives them a top-10 rank in each category at 10th in offense, ninth in defense and ninth in net rating. As the theory goes, a top-10 rank in both offense and defense is considered elite, so over this 10-game stretch the Detroit Pistons have technically been elite by that measure.
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Coinciding with Griffin’s return, the rotation has coalesced. No longer being forced into the starting lineup, Markieff Morris has been able to thrive coming off the bench. His turnovers have plummeted, dropping from 3.2 per 36 minutes before Griffin’s return to a minuscule 1.2 per 36 minutes. Along with this reduction in turnovers, he’s continuing to shoot the lights out at 41% from 3-point range.

Dwane Casey appears to have made a rotational decision with Christian Wood earning the backup center role and supplanting Thon Maker. Wood has delivered as a result. He’s averaging 21.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes off the bench, and he’s shooting 61.7% from the floor and 48.4% from 3-point range. Over the last 10 games in particular, the Detroit Pistons have a +20.3 net rating when he’s on the floor in his 15 minutes per game.

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Thanks to this newfound rotational harmony, the Pistons also have a starting lineup which is clicking. The unit of Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond has a net rating of +31.9 in 59 minutes in the five games it’s been featured.

Mind you, considering the fact that they have produced such tremendous scoring margins but are only 5-5 over that stretch, there are some issues. For starters, it’s likely the softest 10-game stretch of their schedule and must be close to one of the easiest 10-game stretches any team has faced thus far.

They’ve faced the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets (twice), four teams which combine for a 29-64 (even though the Hornets have beaten the Pistons in all three matchups this season). With the exception of close losses to the Hornets, the three victories against the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs were by a combined 92 points.

While the Pistons did take down a tough Pacers squad at home, they also were crushed by the Eastern Conference’s best team, the Milwaukee Bucks.

This suggests the Pistons are able to take care of business against bad, struggling teams like the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs. However, they clearly struggle against athletic and aggressive teams like the Hornets, who have the league’s fifth-worst net rating at -7.6 in spite of their utterly inexplicable multi-year domination over the Pistons.

There are definite signs that the Pistons have the capacity to obliterate bad teams, which is basically the most important element of getting into the playoffs. They may have the ability to battle equally-skilled teams to a draw, but this isn’t a team built to be able to upset teams with a clear talent edge.

The past 10 games have allowed the Pistons to stay afloat in a woeful Eastern Conference playoff chase, leaving them just 2.5 games behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic, but the schedule ramps up over the rest of the month before a West Coast road trip from hell spans from the end of December into January.

The Pistons are 2-9 on the road, but will have road dates this week against the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets and a neutral court game against the Dallas Mavericks in Mexico City. They’ll face the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers over the subsequent weeks, and their road trip will include stops against the Utah Jazz, the LA Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

These Detroit Pistons have kept their heads above water, but the next 10 games will tell us a whole lot more about them than the past 10 games did.

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